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Flood risk amid weekend of heavy rain and wind in Wales

Most of Wales will face a wet and windy weekend, prompting weather warnings from forecasters.

Up to 4in (10cm) of rain could fall over hills and mountains in north-western parts on Saturday.

The heavy rain is set to continue into Sunday, with yellow “be prepared” alerts from the Met Office.

A wind warning is in place for Saturday, as Storm Aiden blows in across the Irish Sea – with gusts hitting up to 70mph (113km/h).

It follows two days of downpours that led to flood road closures in Gwynedd, and a series of flood alerts being issued by Natural Resources Wales.

The Met Office yellow alert for rain on Saturday is in force until 21:00 GMT and covers all of Wales, except Flintshire and Wrexham.

It warns there will be about an inch of rain (2.5cm) across most parts, rising up to 2.4in (6cm) on higher ground, and up to 4in on hills and mountains of Snowdonia.

The wind alert runs from 06:00 until 21:00, with speeds expected to reach between 60 and 65mph (96 and 104km/h) in affected areas, but even higher in exposed coastal areas or high ground.

The warning covers Anglesey, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Gwynedd, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea.

On Sunday, the yellow rain warning is in place from 09:00 until midnight, and covers all of Wales, except Flintshire.

Again, north-west parts of Wales are expected to experience the heaviest rain.

Natural Resources Wales’ duty tactical manger, Gary White, said flooding was possible “up and down” Wales.

“We’re advising people to keep up to date with flood warnings issued in their areas,” he said.

“Our emergency response workers will be at key sites checking defences are in good working order and making sure any drainage grids and screens are clear to reduce the risk to people and their homes.”

Great Fox-Spider rediscovered on MoD land in Surrey

One of Britain’s most endangered spiders has been seen for the first time in more than 20 years.

The Great Fox-Spider is listed as critically endangered and was feared extinct in the UK.

It had only ever been found at three sites, in Dorset and Surrey, and had not been seen since the early 1990s.

Mike Waite, who rediscovered the spiders on a Ministry of Defence (MoD) training area in Surrey, said he was “over the moon”.

The arachnid enthusiast initially found some unidentifiable immature spiderlings on the site, managed by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, after “many hours of late night searching with a torch over the last two years”.

The discovery then led to several mature males and a female, measuring just over 2in (5cm) long in diameter.

The Great Fox-Spider, Alopecosa fabrilis, lives on the ground and is largely nocturnal. It is one of the largest of the Wolf-Spider Lycosidae family of spiders.

According to the Surrey Wildlife Trust, it has excellent eyesight – with wrap-around vision provided by eight black eyes – and captures insects at speed by chasing them across sandy terrain, over gravel and rocks before pouncing.

Mr Waite, of the Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “I am naturally over the moon to have finally proved the continued existence of the Great Fox-Spider in the UK.

“Although I’ve always held a latent interest in spiders, as a bona-fide arachnologist, I am still a relative newbie, so am doubly pleased to have made this important contribution to our scientific knowledge.”

Nick Baker, naturalist, TV presenter and president of the British Arachnological Society, said the spider was “mega”, adding: “It’s about as handsome as a spider gets, it’s big and now it’s officially a member of the British fauna again.”

Climate change: Youve got cheap data, how about cheap power too?

You’re probably reading this on your phone. If not, take it out your pocket and look at it.

It’s a smartphone, isn’t it? Think how often you use it and all the useful things it helps you do. Now, think back. How long since you bought your first smartphone?

It will be about 10 years, most likely a bit less. Not long. Yet they are now ubiquitous: virtually everyone, everywhere has one and uses it for hours every day.

It shows how quickly new technology can take off. The original iPhone was only introduced in 2007 and – bizarre as it now seems – it wasn’t regarded as revolutionary back then.

Check out this Forbes magazine cover published nine months after the iPhone was released.

And Forbes wasn’t alone. The iPhone was just “one more entrant into an already very busy space,” according to the boss of the company that made Blackberrys. Remember them?

Not only have smartphones crushed all other phone technologies, they have upended dozens of other industries too. They’ve killed the camera and powered the rise of social media and dating apps. They’ve decimated the traditional taxi industry.

So what has this got to do with energy?

It proves an important point about all successful new technologies: it is easy to see why they were so transformative in hindsight, much harder to predict how they will reshape our world in advance.

Which brings me to green technology – wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar panels and batteries, that kind of thing.

If you still think adopting these new technologies will be an expensive chore, think again.

Green tech is at a tipping point where it could take off explosively – just like the smartphone did. And, just like the smartphone, it could bring a revolution in how we do much more than just create energy.

So why did the smartphone do so well?

Its success was down to a unique convergence of technologies. For the first time touchscreens, batteries, data networks, compact computer chips, micro-sensors and more, were cheap, reliable and small enough to make a $600 (£460) smartphone possible.

And as demand for smartphones picked up, manufacturers learned how to make those technologies even cheaper and better too.

Something similar is now happening with green tech.

After years of development, it is becoming much cheaper and more effective. The world’s best solar power schemes are now the “cheapest source of electricity in history”, the International Energy Agency (IEA), which analyses energy markets, said this month.

“Renewable energy is likely to penetrate the energy system more quickly than any fuel ever seen in history,” predicts Spencer Dale, the chief economist at the oil giant BP.

And BP is putting its money where Mr Dale’s mouth is. It’s pledged to cut its oil and gas production by 40% in the next 10 years, and to plough money into developing their low-carbon business instead.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, announced a £160m investment that he said would see offshore wind producing more than half of current UK electricity demand by 2030.

That’s right. An investment of just £160m in offshore wind when the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, is costing at least £22.5 billion.

How is it so cheap? Because the UK government won’t be paying for the new wind turbines, the private sector will.

In the UK, offshore wind will soon be profitable without subsidy. Indeed, developers may soon have to pay for access to our continental shelf.

Think what that means. You don’t need governments offering inducements for companies to build new renewable power, they’ll be paying us for the privilege of doing so.

But that is just the beginning. What happens when the world doubles down on cutting carbon?

The European Union has already signed up to a €1tn-plus green stimulus plan. China says it is on board too.

At the United Nation’s General Assembly meeting in New York this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an unconditional commitment that China would cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2060.

Japan and South Korea both announced a 2050 net zero pledge this week and if Joe Biden wins the American presidential election, he has similarly ambitious carbon cutting plans.

Both Biden and the EU have warned they will introduce carbon tariffs to penalise countries that haven’t abated emissions selling high-carbon products in their markets.

That’ll be a powerful encouragement for the rest of the world to follow suit. But even if they don’t, we’d have America, China and Europe – half of world emissions and more than half of world GDP – doubling down on cutting carbon.

That means even more investment in wind, solar, batteries, electric cars, electrolysis, carbon capture and storage, and any other green technology you can think of.

Just like with the smartphone, it becomes a virtuous cycle.

“What we’ve seen up to now is called a learning curve,” explains Spencer Dale. “The more you produce something, the better you get at producing it.”

As the amount of solar and wind capacity in the world has doubled and doubled again, the costs have steadily fallen – something documented by the clean tech advocate Ramez Naam.

“And at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any sign that those learning curves are flattening out,” says Mr Dale.

If he’s right then costs will continue to fall, making renewables increasingly competitive, which in turn will lead to more investment and more renewable power. You get the idea.

Let’s now do a thought experiment.

The big challenge with renewables is what they call in the trade “intermittency” – the fact that you don’t get any power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. It is a big problem. Nobody wants the power to go off.

RethinkX, an American think tank specialising in blue-skies thinking on the future of industries, says we need to change our whole mindset about how we generate power.

We are used to worrying about the costs of overcapacity – producing more power than is needed. That’s because the fuel used to generate power is expensive.

Not so with renewables. Once you’ve built them, the power they generate from the wind and sun comes virtually free of charge.

RethinkX says this will do to energy what the internet and smartphones have done to data. Thirty years ago there was an inherent physical cost to every newspaper printed or photo taken. Now that everything is digital, the only limit on how much we read or post on Instagram is the number of hours in our day.

It argues that instead of simply replacing existing fossil fuel plants with wind and solar – and then worrying about the cost of plugging those big intermittency gaps – we should just build more and more and more wind and solar. Perhaps several times the capacity of the existing electricity grid.

Remember, the more we build, the cheaper it gets. So long as we spread them over a wide enough area we’ll always get some power. And we can plug the few small gaps remaining with batteries or other power plants.

And here’s the thing. On sunny and windy days we’ll have a huge surplus of electricity at pretty much no extra cost.

What could you do with huge amounts of cheap power?

You’ll certainly want to use it to make more wind turbines and solar panels. But what about electrolysing water to produce hydrogen that can heat homes, power trucks and ships, or make steel? You could power machines to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Or how about a plant to make carbon neutral aviation fuel from that hydrogen and carbon dioxide? Or a desalination plant to irrigate a desert? RethinkX even suggests the power could be used to mine for cryptocurrencies.

The point is this: the cost of energy is a key constraint in virtually everything we do. So new industries are likely rise up to make use of this plentiful power.

Obviously they’ll have to pay something for this bounty and that’ll mean the power that boils your kettle and charges your electric car will be cheaper too.

Of course, we are a long way from this utopia. The chances are this vision of unlimited, virtually cost-free energy, may not come to pass – or at least not in the 10-year timeframe they predict.

The sheer physical challenge of building so much new infrastructure means it will take time to build up the supply chains and raw materials needed, and there may be limits to how much solar and wind some countries can harness.

But the central point remains: there are powerful forces driving down the cost of renewable technologies that upend the traditional narrative of decarbonisation.

Contrary to what we are normally told, switching to low carbon energy doesn’t have to be an onerous obligation that will impoverish us and make life less exciting.

Instead, it could open up a world of new opportunities, new businesses and livelihoods. And what’s more, this could all happen quite soon.

Spencer Dale quotes the eminent German economist, Rudi Dornbusch who said: “In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

And if you don’t believe that, just think about all the changes your smartphone has helped bring about in the world.

Follow Justin on Twitter.

I’ve travelled all over the world for the BBC and seen evidence of environmental damage and climate change everywhere. It’s the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Tackling it means changing how we do virtually everything. We are right to be anxious and afraid at the prospect, but I reckon we should also see this as a thrilling story of exploration, and I’m delighted to have been given the chance of a ringside seat as chief environment correspondent.

Covid: Dudley, Staffordshire and Telford go into tier 2

Tighter restrictions have been brought in in Staffordshire, Dudley, and Telford in a bid to stop rising Covid-19 cases.

Some in the hospitality sector said the tier two restrictions, including a ban on households mixing indoors, could mean the end for their businesses.

David Gregg, of Albert’s Shed music venue in Telford, said fewer customers meant finances “don’t add up any more”.

Dudley landlady Karen Kennedy said she may now quit her pub before Christmas.

Ms Kennedy, who runs the Summerhouse on Gospel End Road on the Staffordshire/Dudley border, said she did not know now how long she could keeping the business running.

“We’re already running at a loss, and lost thousands and thousands this year. How far can you go on like that?” she said.

“We’re known as the Christmas pub and people come from miles around to see our lights and decorations.

“Well, we can’t plan that this year. I’m not even sure I’ll be here at Christmas.

“It’s awful. It’s sad for our loyal staff, our loyal customers.

“This will be it [in a higher tier] until next year now and it’s probably only going to get worse.”

The decision – which affects about 1.5 million people in Staffordshire, Dudley, parts of the Black Country, and Telford and Wrekin – follows discussions with local leaders and will be reviewed every 14 days, the government has said.

Parts of Yorkshire and the Humber, areas of the East Midlands, as well as Luton and Oxford City have also moved into the “high alert” tier two from Saturday.

It comes as a new study suggests 100,000 people are catching coronavirus in England every day.

Mr Gregg said his venue was facing a difficult future following the announcement.

He had seen the return of live music after the lockdown and had received a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, but said the new restrictions were likely to reduce the number of people visiting the venue.

“As a live music venue but as part of the hospitality sector, it is intrinsic to what we do, bringing people together to socialise so these restrictions meaning only one household per table is going to cause some difficulties to say the at least.”

Landladies Lisa Finlay and Penny Corbett, who run pubs in Tamworth and Dudley respectively, said the sector would have been better off under the higher tier three restrictions, which would force bars not serving food to close, but allow them to access government support.

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley has said despite efforts by the public to keep the area in tier one, cases had continued to rise and were doubling every week.

Birmingham, Sandwell, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton are already in tier two, affecting some 2.24 million people.

Sandwell Council said on Friday that cases in West Bromwich were now at “dangerous levels”, with the infection rate in the town at 483 per 100,000 people for the week up to 27 October.

Halloween: How the Boulet Brothers Dragula blends drag and horror

Everyone has that early memory of something terrifying them at Halloween: a monster, a ghost or – in my case – a ventriloquist’s dummy.

But for others, horror movies and monsters are the equivalent of a warm comfort blanket.

At four years old, Dracmorda Boulet remembers being in her grandparents’ “creepy old house” watching one of the most iconic versions of Dracula, with Christopher Lee.

She felt “right at home” with the genre that sparked a life-long obsession with horror and Halloween.

It was the same for partner Swanthula Boulet, whose Halloween costumes were “always evil”. She “thrived on the drama, fear, excitement and theatre” of dressing up.

It’s no wonder Halloween is sometimes referred to as Gay Christmas.

Together, Drac and Swan are the brains behind the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, a reality competition show which perfectly blends their two passions: horror and drag.

“I was a mummy. I was Dracula. I was a devil. I was a demon.

“I never really went as a witch but – as a little queer boy – I probably secretly wanted to.”

Swanthula Boulet on Halloween costumes as a kid

Dragula is described as “unapologetic queer artistry” that will “make you laugh, make you cry and make you sick to the stomach”.

There have been three seasons so far, in which horror-obsessed drag queens and kings compete to be the world’s “next drag supermonster”.

It’s a similar format to shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race and America’s Next Top Model with weekly look challenges and eliminations.

However, you need a strong stomach for some episodes as the bottom two contestants face extermination challenges, such as jumping from a plane or eating plates of raw meat.

Drac’s keen to add that “despite the fact it’s based entirely around horror, there’s a message of hope that runs throughout the entire thing”.

The show is proud to embrace inclusivity. Previous contestants have included drag kings, those who identify as non-binary and trans people.

“Queer people resonate with horror, because we see ourselves and these monsters or witches presented as outcasts of society,” Drac tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“They’re misunderstood and they’re judged unfavourably by the normal world around them.”

The Boulets remind us of the connection between many of cinema’s early monster movies and the suppression of any overt LGBTQ+ representation on screen.

In the 1930s, the Hays Code was introduced. It effectively banned scenes of nudity, sex and dancing of a sexual nature.

Also, a kiss couldn’t last for more than seven metres of film.

“It effectively banned creators from putting homosexual content into the movies,” says Drac. “But they found ways to get queer content into their movies without being overt about it.”

They highlight James Whale, the gay Hollywood director who made classics including Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein.

“When you watch Frankenstein, you feel and see this misunderstood warmth towards the character, and that was intentional. To me that was a clear sign to queer people that they were being told ‘this is your experience’.”

The Boulet Brothers have been blending drag and horror for years, and like to have a hand in everything they do: “We draw from fantasy, from horror movies, from iconic comic book villains and cartoon villains. We always had a clear vision of what we wanted.”

The Dragula TV show has evolved over its three seasons, with the production values increasing dramatically and having bigger budgets to work with.

In 2016, it started out purely online but is now available across major worldwide streaming services.

“We’ve had to prove ourselves and claw our way to where we are,” says Drac. “It’s taken chunks of our soul to get to where we are and you can’t imagine how many doors we’ve had slammed in our faces.”

As for their favourite horror movies, Drac recently discovered a 1936 monster movie called Dracula’s Daughter. “I had never seen it but as soon as I watched it I was seeing my own drag character. It was so interesting.”

For Swan, 1987’s Hellraiser stands out: “Something happened to me when I watched that puzzle box open and the Cenobites came out of the wall.”

If that sounds too horrific, then she also adores Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn’s 1992 fantasy comedy Death Becomes Her.

“Drac and I are like the stars of that movie. Our relationship is the same.

“We’re always helping each other to try to live for eternity… but we’re fighting it the whole way.”

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Covid: A towns intoxicating will to press on through the pandemic

The whole of Wales has been locked down for a second time. In the south Wales valleys, Michael Buchanan finds a town where people are pulling together to overcome homelessness and a lack of money.

In the window of the Peacocks store on Crane Street, Pontypool, there are two signs that neatly encapsulate the world in which we now live. One welcomes shoppers back from the spring lockdown. It outlines the measures put in place to keep customers safe.

Beside it, a newer sign, announces the store’s closing down sale. It shut its doors for the last time last Friday evening, just as Wales sank into a short, sharp lockdown.

I’m in the county borough of Torfaen, for this two-week “fire-breaker” – the most severe of any restrictions in the UK, since the national lockdown in spring. Bars, restaurants, places of worship and most shops have been ordered to shut.

This part of south Wales knew hardship well before the word “Covid” had passed anyone’s lips. But life has got even harder. So, how are people coping – financially and emotionally – amid these harsh, new restrictions?

There is much to suggest staff at the newly shuttered Peacocks will struggle to find alternative work. The local council says there are 13 unemployed people for every vacancy in the area. But while it would be easy to become despondent, there is an intoxicating determination here that this community will help each other to get through the pandemic.

Few encapsulate that resolve better than Sue Malson, who runs the Trac2 charity, a vital cog in the Trevethin district of Pontypool. It is one of Wales’s most deprived areas. She tries to keep herself safe and professes a fear of coronavirus – “I can’t get ill, I can’t infect my staff”. But in truth you’d fear for the virus if it dared to attack her.

Sue is short, stocky and straight-talking, orchestrating the charity’s response to the latest crisis in between nipping outside for a quick cigarette or haring around the area’s steep, narrow roads in its Transit van.

Established six years’ ago, Trac2 does everything from providing benefits advice to supplying beds and white goods for those forced into temporary accommodation. It can turn in an instant to most emergencies. In some ways, the pandemic has been a continuation of its work, with one notable exception. The last six months have revealed deeper levels of mental health needs in the community than had been previously appreciated.

“I was struck by the levels of loneliness through lockdown,” says Sue, who is also a local Labour councillor. “People who haven’t got a laptop, who can’t watch Netflix, who don’t do social media. How many are out there, with no family and no friends, that we’re not reaching?

“That’s where your anxiety, your depression comes in. We need to do more, especially to encourage men to talk.”

Anxiety clings to Pontypool’s many hills like an obstinate fog as the town tries to navigate what feels more like an economic crisis than a health crisis one.

Its status as an industrial, coal-mining centre is long gone. Now, it is facing a pandemic and, like the rest of Wales, the town is in the midst of its second lockdown.

As well as bars and “non-essential” shops shutting, so have leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops and beauty salons. Everyone who can work from home should do so. It is much more severe than even the harshest tier-three restrictions in England, albeit for two weeks only. The measure will remain in place until 9 November.

The town’s economic challenges, over many years, have left a legacy – aspiration levels in some neighbourhoods are depressingly low as the young see their parents struggle to survive, sometimes needing two or three low-paid jobs if they’re to have any chance of making ends meet.

The pandemic has, however, revealed the character of the area’s communities, and men and women who are unassuming by nature have stepped up to envelop their neighbours in kindness and empathy, at a time of unprecedented need.

When the original lockdown was introduced, an extraordinary effort to ensure people didn’t go hungry kicked in, an endeavour that continued when the threat from Covid appeared to recede in the summer.

Supermarkets, local businesses and neighbours were tapped up to help.

Panteg House, a social club in Griffithstown, turned itself into a food bank, with volunteers spending hours sorting and sanitising items to ensure they didn’t pass on the virus to families they support. It has also become the distribution hub for 10 separate charities all of which are involved in providing food parcels across the Torfaen area. On Wednesday, Sue took her place in the queue outside Panteg House alongside drivers from Noddfa Baptist Church.

The church’s energetic, charismatic leader, Pastor John, mixes Bible quotations with practical tips as he explains how his growing congregation has adapted to the needs of the pandemic.

The church delivers food, more than 10,000 meals since March to scores of families in the Abersychan area. But of equal importance, says Pastor John, is the other support they offer. Tree young people who became homeless over the summer each spent time sleeping in the church property.

Volunteers arranged a room where struggling families could swap school uniforms. And they run a range of different groups to help people of all ages tackle the area’s many and varied mental health needs.

So concerned was the pastor about the current Wales-wide lockdown that he wrote to the First Minister Mark Drakeford urging him to keep places of worship open, although that wish failed.

“We had one member make a suicide attempt last time. We’re tackling loneliness. We had another couple turn to crime,” he says. “We supported them all through the summer and we can’t have them going backwards again.”

Helping this community is not just down to charities and volunteers. The local council as well as the Welsh and UK governments have spent significant sums shoring up the Torfaen economy, with £18m of Covid support given to local businesses.

Against the 70 Covid-related deaths in the area, 12,000 people have been furloughed. Two-thirds of self employed businesses have sought government support and the number of people on universal credit has soared past 10,000 – about 11% of the area’s population. The local authority is also dealing with rising numbers of adults who are homeless and children who need help from social services.

“This crisis has entrenched the inequalities that existed in our community anyway,” says Anthony Hunt, the council’s Labour leader.

But much like Pontypool’s rugby team, which has seen a resurgence in its fortunes in recent years, there are grounds for optimism amid all the uncertainty. The charities and volunteers who have sustained the area in recent months have vowed to continue supporting the community until the need is no longer there, however long that takes.

“We don’t discriminate, we don’t turn anyone away,” Sue says. “If you need help, we’ll get it to you.”

Michael Buchanan is the BBC’s social affairs correspondent.

Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and her dad: Should we make holograms of the dead?

Getting a hologram of a lost loved one might not be on your birthday wish list.

Nor was it on reality star Kim Kardashian West’s before she was surprised by husband Kanye West with a hologram of her late father Robert for her 40th celebrations.

But in tweets that have since gone viral, she called it “the most thoughtful gift of a lifetime”.

A lawyer and businessman, Robert Kardashian was best known for defending OJ Simpson at his high-profile murder trial in the 1990s. He split from Kim’s mother Kris in 1991, and died in 2003.

The talking hologram, which appears as a video, has remarkable visual detail and a pretty well-matched voice. But many people have been unnerved by how the hologram had been scripted by Kanye.

At one point, the hologram says: “You married the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world, Kanye West.”

For Per Axbom, a digital ethicist, this poses serious concerns for the rights of individuals after they die.

“Even if a person gives their consent to being used as a hologram, is it even possible for this to be an informed consent?” he asks. “If yes, that would mean that they also give their consent to that same hologram expressing phrases or sentiments that are not part of their belief or value system.

“More than a hologram, they become a puppet. Dangerously, by extension they can become a puppet that can not be discerned from their real self. It will matter who is given control of that puppet.”

Kardashian West’s reaction to the hologram seemed to be positive – but the same technology that can restore a loved one to digital life can also be used to manipulate footage of those still living, such as politicians, which can lead to powerful disinformation.

Deepfake technology like that used here on Robert Kardashian’s face has also been used to manipulate footage of world leaders ahead of the US election, as well as to fake nude images of more than 100,000 women.

You do not need to be in the public eye to be deepfaked or hologrammed – but it helps.

David Ripert, founder of augmented reality firm Poplar Studio, thinks the hologram was achieved using a projection known as Pepper’s Ghost along with an actor in front of a green screen. AI deepfake is then used to overlay the face onto the body.

“You can 3D render from a photograph, but it’s not as realistic,” he says. “If you want to train a model with the father’s face you need a lot of footage. Five hundred thousand photos or assets are needed to train a machine. It helps if you have been on television or filmed a lot.”

But you only need a few words of audio. “It’s speech synthesis. You only need a few words to train the machine.”

Dines, chief creative officer of Studio BLUP, says the technology is still in its early stages and there are lots of giveaways that this is altered footage of Robert Kardashian – mainly the movements and the proportion of his head to his hands.

But what was not necessarily clear – and which Kanye evidently wanted to make obvious by adding in the line about himself – was that he was the one behind it all.

“It shows how easy it is to manipulate. I thought it was tongue in cheek. If Kanye didn’t put that line in, people would have said, ‘It’s so nice’.

“But he did, and that’s what’s scary about it.”

Just days after Kardashian West was criticised for sharing the fact she had flown all of her friends to a private island for her birthday, people have also questioned how sensitive publicising this expensive present might be in the middle of a pandemic.

But in a world where “death tech” is becoming increasingly popular, and where people are thinking more and more about the digital legacies they leave behind, Kim and Kanye may have prompted a technological ethics discussion about whether we need tighter rules – even if it is currently only for the super-rich.

One day, you or your descendants may want to sign release forms before you or they die, allowing or forbidding the use of your posthumous hologram.

“This has served a massive purpose,” says Dines. “What do you do for the woman who already has everything in life? You bring back her dad.

“Rules don’t need to be made for that. But this will be made a trend, because everything Kim touches becomes a trend. There will have to be laws in place now.”

But David Ripert adds that regulation might not be necessary. “More than laws, there needs to be education around it.

“I think we’re just going to have to be trained to question everything. I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing that we have to question things.”

Stockton food bank: Dealers dont swap drugs for a tin of beans

Food bank organisers and users have hit out at claims free school meal vouchers can be used for alcohol and drugs amid Marcus Rashford’s campaign to get them extended to the holidays.

It has come after Workington Tory MP Mark Jenkinson said “I know in my constituency that, as tiny as a minority it might be, food parcels are sold or traded” for illegal substances.

A Stockton woman who relies on the parcels said: “What kind of drug dealer would swap drugs for a tin of beans or pasta? It’s just not true.”

The government said £63m it had given councils was a better way to support families, rather than vouchers.

The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC’s Unusual Times podcast the idea parents would spend food vouchers on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs was “pathetic”.

She has used supported food services for her and her two-year-old daughter, and said: “The vouchers worked for everybody.

“[Some MPs] are trying to say it was used for prostitution and drugs. You can’t use a voucher for drugs. You aren’t allowed to use them for booze.”

Some MPs have expressed concerns families will become reliant on free meals.

Mansfield Conservative MP Ben Bradley warned they could cause “long term state dependency to millions”.

And Redcar MP Jacob Young, also a Conservative, said “schools, supermarkets and concerned parents” had “witnessed people using the £15 a week voucher on alcohol, tobacco or on unhealthy food”.

Manchester United and England footballer Rashford has called on the government to provide free lunches during school holidays amid fears over family incomes during the coronavirus pandemic.

His Parliamentary petition said “no child should be going hungry”.

The UK government extended free school meals to eligible children during the Easter holidays earlier this year and, after a high-profile campaign by Rashford, did the same for the summer holiday.

But last week, Conservative MPs rejected Labour’s Opposition Day motion to further extend free school meals by 322 votes to 261, with five Tory MPs rebelling.

The government said it had already introduced more effective measures to support families.

Families and community groups on Teesside said the decision not to extend the vouchers across holidays needed to be reversed.

The White Feather Project, which started in March, has been running two community shops in North Ormesby and Brambles Farm where people have been able to get food essentials by making a small donation.

Mark Horkan, who runs the project, said people needed more help than ever before, adding: “If it wasn’t for the likes of Marcus Rashford the government would close the door.

“It’s all right saying ‘no child will go hungry’ – they are. It proves it when we have to do this,” he said.

Children may be able to receive free school meals if their parent or carer receives at least one of the following:

A Middlesbrough mother-of-two, who did not want to be named, said the shop in North Ormesby “really helps”.

“My kids are 10 and 13, they eat me out of house and home basically” she said. “I’m on benefits. It’s been extremely tough.”

She said without extra help available, there was a risk her two children would go hungry.

“No kid should go hungry, regardless of their situation. It’s absolutely terrible,” she added.

The Thornaby Hub in Stockton hands out food twice a week and is run by wellbeing charity Little Sprouts.

Debbie Fixter from the charity said the vouchers given to parents over the Easter holiday “absolutely worked”.

“When people say they’re just a sticking plaster… that’s just wrong,” she said.

“I know last week, four people sold their phones because they needed food. That’s the reality of it.

“Everything is online or on the phone, we make an assumption that people have access to these things but they haven’t.”

Amanda Bailey, director of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said: “I don’t think any parent chooses to be in a position where they struggle to feed their family, and I would challenge anyone to live on the income of someone below the poverty line, month after month, and experience the relentless stress this causes.

“Child poverty is not an unsolvable problem. While the North East has seen the steepest recent increase in rates of child poverty, it actually experienced the biggest reduction between 1999 and 2013, which shows it can be done.”

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said: “We’ve put the uplift into universal credit, just over £1,000 a year.

“But also very specifically we’ve put £63m into local authorities to support and help people in hardship… and a number of local authorities are using it to do exactly that.

“We’ve put that support in there and I think that’s the right way to do it because the schools aren’t open so it’s making sure that the welfare system can put the support in, targeted where it’s needed most.”

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